Wednesday, September 30, 2020

7 steps for self-improvement we can do now

So it's Day 200 of our GCQ/ECQ/MECQ/I don't know what it is anymore. Aaaaaaand I'm now at 130 lbs. Yep, I gained weight. I was actually losing weight at the start of quarantine. I was 130 lbs in January but I was 125 lbs by April. I was eating homecooked meals (well, we didn't really have a choice when quarantine started), exercising, biking, finally sleeping 8 hours. I felt great!

Then I became depressed. Remember when I told you how I've been? Ya. That happened. I was wallowing for around 6 weeks. Stopped exercising. Stuffed my mouth. Couldn't sleep. Even when I started feeling better, I just couldn't start exercising again and I couldn't stop eating. Considering all that, it's a miracle I only gained 5 lbs! (Big blessing - it's hard for me to gain weight.)

Then one day, I was scrolling through my Instagram and Welch's, my blog sponsor, had a post that reminded me I had fallen off the wagon. 

I may not be overly overweight but I realized that it's the last quarter of the year and I don't want to end the year the same weight - or heavier! - than when I started it. That would just be another reason 2020 sucks but this time it would be all MY FAULT! But I can always start fresh, as Welch's so wonderfully reminded me. 

So can you guys be my accountability partner? I'm going to start improving my health, my body, and my habits again. And here are the steps for self-improvement I need to take:

1. Wake up before my kids.

Because I sleep so late working on articles, preparing for homeschool lessons, and spending my much-needed alone time, I wake up later than my kids. They're fine - the boys eat their breakfast and start doing their chores. This is good, right? But as soon as I get up, they bombard me with "Mama, look at this! Mama, I did that! Mama, can I do this?" And to the groggy me, it's jarring and isn't really not the most calming way to start my day. I feel like I lose control of the day.

2. Meditate.

I started doing this in August, scheduling my Bible study every morning. I've been a Born Again Christian for 30+ years but meditating on God's Word is hard for me. And it still is! But around the second week, I started feeling excited about what I'm reading. I think it's because I'm older and I have a better perspective on life, faith, and God now.

3. Just drink water and healthy drinks.

At around June, I started drinking a lot of Coke, coffee, and milk tea. So bad! Even though I still drink water and Welch's 100% Grape Juice, their goodness was outbalanced by all the sugary and caffeinated drinks I was consuming. But since 2 weeks ago, I am now just drinking water, black tea, ginger and turmeric tea, and Welch's. I don't feel so bloated anymore!

Ever since my family started drinking Welch's around 3 years ago, we've slowly and then completely stopped drinking sugary powdered juices. Real fruit juice is naturally sweet anyway so adding sugar completely distorts how it tastes. Plus, you can't beat the Vitamin C and antioxidants, which not only help strengthen my immune system, it also keeps my skin clear and improves brain function. Definitely a must for a middle-aged woman like me!  

4. Go on the Smaller Portions diet!

I actually eat healthy. Almost all our meals are homecooked. There's almost always a salad or a vegetable dish on the table. My problem is I cook soooo well, I eat so much of my cooking! Oh dear! I love my cooking. My husband just said at dinner tonight, "You make the best tinola." And I do. But I end up eating maybe up to three platefuls of my cooking. It's terrible haha So I'll still prepare my yummy healthy meals but I really need to eat just one serving only! 

And of course, wash everything down with just water or Welch's grape juice because, as says, "Those who drink 100 percent fruit juice, including grape juice, possess a lower mean body mass index, smaller waistline and lower insulin resistance."

5. Start exercising.

I tried a few times this September. I have exercise apps but what I like best are the walking videos of Leslie Sansone. I should do it more often! Pray for me haha. By the way, when I exercise, I drink just water or Welch's 100% Grape Juice. I don't need energy drinks because Welch's has tons of natural-sugar energy in it already. Plus, grape juice made from Concord grapes has a beneficial effect on the heart and blood pressure.

6. Spend less time on social media.

Facebook especially is a time-sucking monster. I sometimes get shocked that I start scrolling at 11pm and then it's suddenly 3am! My sleep suffers. My work suffers. My mental health suffers. Must really manage my time on Facebook. My plan is to set a timer - 30 minutes! - and follow it strictly. I can get so much done, I bet. All those saved hours I can use to sleep, exercise, read a book, paint, work!

7. Sleep!

Yes, sleep! It's the most neglected area of my life. Scary because studies show that consistently lacking sleep leads to lower immunity, higher risk for diseases, and early death. I haven't really been getting 7-9 hours of sleep for more than 10 years (thanks, motherhood). Such a bad habit.

I specifically chose these steps for their immediacy. I can do them without having to do anything big, like sign up for a skills class, or join a support group (I already have Lean In PH!), or buy a gym membership. Many times, we can't take that first step to improve ourselves because it takes a lot of work and the thought tires us out even before we start.

My list is simple and super doable. So I have no excuse. I'm really going to start these steps for self-improvement. I'll update you on my Instagram and blog my progress on my birthday next month. Wish me luck!

Source: "What are the benefits of Welch's Grape Juice?",

*This post is brought to you by Welch's 100% Grape Juice. Welch's 100% Grape Juice, Juice Cocktails, and Sparkling Juices are available in all leading supermarkets, drugstores, and convenience stores. You can have your favorite health drink delivered right to your doorstep! Visit the Ace Food Service website, or place your order in the following online groceries: Metro Mart, Lazmart, and Waltermart.

Monday, September 28, 2020

Review (book): "The Overseas Fabulous Pinay" by Donna Avellana Kunzler

I just put down this super interesting book, The Overseas Fabulous Pinay: A Modern Filipina's Handbook on How to Thrive Abroad. It's by Donna Avellana Künzler. She may have a foreign last name but she's Pinay through and through. Donna was born and raised in Cavite and took up accounting because all she ever wanted to be was a CPA like her dad. However, she became an Information Technology Auditor and Consultant instead. Her #ovfabpinay life started almost 20 years ago when she moved to Singapore for work. From there, she moved to the USA and then to my favorite city, London. Always because of work (how lucky is this woman?). She is now based in Switzerland, working for a Swiss global company, responsible for finance process governance and standardization in the finance organization. 

Donna's a new mommy to a baby girl and I really admire her because she was working, writing and producing a book, and making a baby all at the same time! That's amazing! I know this because - full disclosure - I helped edit the manuscript so my deadline was the most unusual in my editing career: I had to finish editing before Donna gives birth. And there's no pushing that deadline haha I was also working when I was in the delivery room with my first baby but I had already turned over most everything to my staff. A whole book is a whole different story. It's personal. It's also like a child. So for Donna to be working on her book and preparing to give birth is a whole new level of devotion.

The author is talking to the bold Pinay who wants to leave the constraints comforts of home and be on her own abroad. No mommy and daddy, no allowance, no friends, no yaya, no driver, no boyfriend or husband. Gosh, just writing that down is so exciting. I've always wanted to work in London or Singapore, far far away from everyone I know and who knew me. But - after making careful decisions - life became just too good here. No regrets! But that's a dead part of me that was prodded awake by Donna's book.

Because Donna is so conversational, even chatty, the book is so easy to read. It literally feels like I'm sitting on my couch, sipping my coffee, and chatting with a friend. Well, the author is the one doing the chatting while I'm eagerly listening.

It feels fast-paced, though. Is that a bad thing? Well, no. I just feel like the author was rattling off all her useful information (there's a plethora!) and I haven't absorbed anything yet and she's already off on her new topic. That's why I'm glad this is a book. I can go back and take notes. I feel like if this was a talk, I'd be asking her to "Wait, wait, let me just write that down!"

I think Donna anticipated this. Her book is well designed to highlight the lists upon lists of tips, advice, documents, rules, and many more. So you can easily find everything you need to know. There are colored boxes, checklists - it's really quite a useful reference book. In fact, it was a finalist for Best Interior Design at the 2020 International Book Awards. 

Speaking of awards, Donna's book is a Gold Winner at the Nonfiction Book Awards."This is a really upbeat book that is helpful and inspiring for anyone considering moving overseas. It has lots of tips, lists and questions to consider both before and after a move," the review says.

As you can tell, it's worth your pesos to grab this book and worth your time to also read it. And don't let those awards intimidate you - this is such an easy-to-read book. I do think you won't finish it in half a day since there is a ton of information to process. So take it slow and pay attention, especially when you reach the chapters of settling abroad.

Every single part of the book offers practical tips. What I found especially useful was the chapter on the unique lifestyles of each country. I've always been a tourist, staying at hotels and going to places that catered to the foreigner so I've never actually experienced how it is to be a local. 

So all of Donna's stories about paying attention to the culture was eye-opening because of course people treat tourists differently than they do people they work with, no matter what country you came from. As they say, "When in Rome, do as the Romans do." I also liked all the stories on how to find a home, getting a driver's license, and being aware of rules and certain ways of life that comes from living in a cold country or a disciplined country. 

For example, I was amazed that in Zurich, you have to buy official trash bags. And they are expensive. You can't just use any trash bag like we do here in the Philippines. Trash is also segregated and you better make sure you sort your trash because if you don't, the district council will issue warning letters to you, your neighbors will complain against you, and you just might find yourself homeless. Serious stuff! 

I would've wanted to know how to find work and move to another country, though. Donna didn't address that because that wasn't her experience. She's lucky enough to have gotten job offers before moving to the countries she's lived in. But for my husband and I who are contemplating moving abroad since we're not happy with where our country is going, we'd love to know how to grab those good jobs. 

We're told by our immigration agent that we need to move first then look for a job there. That's terrifying. We're old so it may take time for us to find the good jobs and neighborhood that we can live happily in. But we have kids so we can't afford to fail. So it's like a chicken-or-the-egg thing for us. Do we look for a job first and hope the employer asks us to move there? Does one of us go first and establish our home? Do we just risk it all and move everyone and hope we don't hate our new life? Tough decisions.

Another thing I wanted to know was sure tips on how to become a permanent resident or citizen in the country we're moving to. Are there secrets? Will it cost a lot of money? Will it take years upon years? Those issues were important to me but weren't discussed. Maybe those will come up in her next book (I hope she writes The Overseas Fabulous Pinay Mom!) or in one of her online talks.

Yes, Donna has lots of online talks! Just visit because Donna always has events lined up. She has other #ovfabpinays over for chats about how to live fabulously abroad. Join the #ovfabpinay Facebook community and follow @ovfabpinay on Instagram for more updates. Donna is very friendly and encouraging of her fellow Pinays who would love to start a new life abroad.

And of course, do grab your own copy of The Overseas Fabulous Pinay: A Modern Filipina’s Guide on How to Thrive Abroad by Donna Avellana Künzler. It's a really good read! Get it at major online book shops Barnes & Noble, Kobo and Amazon for P750. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

The SalesVIP boys are ready for Rockwell Voyager, an interstellar Halloween adventure!

The boys are excited about Halloween this year because they get to go trick-or treating because of our favorite Power Plant Mall. Wait. Isn't it bawal for kids to go out according to quarantine guidelines? Yes. You're right. Bawal lumabas ang mga bata ng bahay unless they're going to a medical facility so pleeeeeease keep your kids at home. 

So how did Power Plant manage it? Well, if the kids can't go to the mall, the mall will go to the kids! Rockwell malls Power Plant Mall, Santolan Town Plaza, and The Grove by Rockwell will go ahead and celebrate Halloween with Rockwell Voyager, an interstellar adventure boys and girls will enjoy! On October 31, Rockwell will take our kids trick-or-treating to... OUTER SPACE!!! No COVID there!
They were so excited!

Joke haha. The galaxy will be your very own home. So the kids will have fun but still be safe and sound right at home. Let's do this, parents! Here's how to begin the adventure:

1. Get the interactive Space Voyager Kits!

It's a jetpack. They're going to need that to blast off into space as Certified Space Rangers. Inside their jetpacks are:

- an exclusive access pass to a DIY astronaut mask workshop
- top secret space missions
- space badges for parents to award their little Space Rangers for every game completed
- candies, snacks, and treats (and nice treats, too, not those cheap sweets)

They can't wait for Oct. 31 to open their Top Secret Missions! 
Handy bottle of sanitizer before eating the snacks! (I ate the Snickers. Oops.)

2. Get a chance to win special space-themed gifts from Toys R Us!

On social media, post your child's best graduation photo showing their completed badges. Make sure to tag Power Plant Mall and Santolan Town Plaza on Instagram and Facebook with the caption: “Space Ranger (name) reporting for duty at Rockwell Voyager. #RockwellHalloween”. Your photo may win your kid toys!

Checking out each item. Parang birthday party!

That's all you need to do, moms and dads! Have fun this Halloween with your favorite mall but in the safety of your own home. The Space Voyager kits are only P1000 each. Buy one for your kid by sending a DM to Power Plant Mall’s Facebook messenger.

Check The Rockwell List for more information about the Halloween event. Follow Power Plant Mall, Santolan Town Plaza, and The Grove by Rockwell’s Facebook and Instagram pages for more information.

P.S. Dear Power Plant, my kids were so happy to get their jetpacks. They super miss their most favorite mall in the world and can't wait till it's safe again to visit you.

Monday, September 21, 2020

I have found the house of my dreams!

My favorite style of house is the Mid-Century Modern (MCM). That is my ultimate dream house. I'm part of a few Facebook groups who are fans of this style and I've been learning a ton of stuff plus getting all these amazing photos of gorgeous houses. It's my happy place, these MCM Facebook groups! 

I'm not strict with the design, unlike many die-hard fans who don't believe in modernizing it at all. But I'm fine with toning down excessive wood paneling and built-ins, and muting the vivid colors. Just a bit to bring the design to the 21st century but not too much that it loses its character altogether.

So anyway, I was browsing through the posts of the MCM groups when this beauty came up and oh my goodness. It was love at first sight! I have found the house of my dreams! Just look at it!

Isn't it beyond gorgeous? And that pink door! And the matching mailbox straight out of The Jetsons! MCM homes have long, flat lines. They also had open floor plans so that living areas flowed into each other. And windows, huge windows!

Okay, let's go inside...

Those high ceilings! And all that light because of those huge windows! I can't live in a house with small windows. I think I'll wither and die within a year if I can't have the sun penetrating every corner of my house. 

Now let's check out the kitchen... 

The kitchen is an updated MCM. A midcentury modern styled kitchen is all about clean lines, warm wood, and then a bright color or a graphic design somewhere, usually the tile. In this case, that blue is boring. I'd make the tile pink and orange, or yellow and orange.

Now let's check out the dining room... 

I can't say I love that wallpaper. I love its boldness but I don't like the colors particularly. I would go for something more colorful to frame the green trees seen from the square window smack in the center of the dining room wall. Then I'd choose chairs that are more sculptural. As for the dining table, I love it but I'd go for a stain that would match the kitchen cabinets.

Off to the patio...

Oh, so perfect! That pink and turquoise! MCM loves bold colors and bold color mixes. I love that wind screen (or breeze blocks)!

Now let's check the bathrooms...

I love the Tetris tile best! An MCM bathroom has clean lines and geometric tiles. To warm it all up, wood is used for the cabinets, metal fixtures are copper or bronze, and an interesting light fixture dominates the space. The shower or bath is also enclosed in glass, functioning much like the huge glass windows in the living areas.

There are soooo many more photos over at its Zillow listing (click it!). Super nice photos of the details like door knobs and tiles. If you want to see the bedrooms and the backyard, the photos are also there. I didn;t include them here. I wasn't too happy with those parts - kinda plain. But I guess the sellers of the house want to keep those as plain as possible so that the people viewing the property can imagine how they'll spruce it up.

Anyway, I just had to blog about this house so that I have a peg for all time. And so you get to see what my dream home is like. Isn't it pretty?

*photos grabbed from Zillow listing

Friday, September 18, 2020

Watch! This Is Paris: The Real Story of Paris Hilton, her official documentary

Well, I didn't expect that Paris Hilton would make me cry. I just watched her documentary, "This is Paris" and it's intensely personal. I started it thinking I'd be watching something fun. Well, it has fun... colors. I can't do what she does. She is a workaholic, the woman behind a billion-dollar empire. And she's profoundly unhappy. This documentary says why. And wow. The why was a surprise! 

Back when I was a Hollywood celebrity editor, I would get dozens of transcripts of interviews of stars, and Paris was one of the few who sounded super smart. As in I would be so puzzled because she was such trailer trash blonde bimbo. Then always in her interviews, she'd say, "You can strike that off the record since it doesn't sound like Paris Hilton." 

I remember bringing this dichotomy up with my husband and he frowned at me and said, "Frances, you forget that she's a Hilton." (To my, uh, credit, I didn't know who the Hiltons were since I wasn't sophisticated and well-traveled haha). 

Anyway, watch this documentary! It feels really genuine and raw. Even though you can see Paris is putting on her persona, she lets the mask slip. Her sister, Nicky Hilton Rothschild, is also no-nonsense, no-bullshit. And I love how Nikki's bookshelves in her nursery are messy piles. 

But this is not about Nicky's bookshelves =) It's about Paris Hilton. The real one. Watch it!

Monday, September 07, 2020

Homeschool Week 2: Harder and sweeter than I expected

Okay, so in last week's report, I said we new homeschoolers are having tons of fun. Well, that was last week haha. We're still having fun, but now that we're done with the settling in, we're actually buckling down to studying the lessons. We've had a few tears ("Mama, why is this so hard to do now?") and there were two days when the kids asked that we skip the school day. So I said yes because I was tired, too.

Homeschoolers always say that the best thing about homeschooling is the flexibility. Me, I'm a woman who likes following a schedule down to the minute so all this flexibility going on is stressing me out haha. My eldest boy is like me so he gets annoyed when his brothers want to extend certain subjects because they want to keep discussing. So I have had to stop him from ringing the school bell a little too hard when he wants the little boys to hurry up.

I was the only one who followed the lesson.

But we're trying, we're trying. I'm opening my mind to this new system. I do feel like I'm second-guessing myself all the time. For example, for Art, we joined Kuya Robert's art class on diversity. He showed us how to paint with watercolors. The subject was making friends with different kinds of people - no matter what color, gender orientation, ability or disability, and beliefs. Well, my kids wanted to do something else. One boy didn't like watercolors and he took out his colored pencils. Another boy wanted a party because he wanted a reason for the friends to be together. Meanwhile, another boy wanted to do his own thing and abandoned Kuya Robert's class altogether (Blue is our pet rabbit).

I let them do their own thing because homeschooling is all about being flexible, interest-led, play up their individuality, etc etc. And the results were nice anyway and most importantly, they had so much fun. BUT... How about following instructions? What about learning something new instead of letting them insist on what they're used to?

So I don't have the answers haha. We'll figure this out. This meandering about our lessons - you know this "So what do we want to learn today?" - has resulted in many serious discussions where every little boy was absorbed and fascinated. Those wide, shining eyes and animated conversations are hard to beat. I've found myself talking about life more than academics, and while part of me knows the lessons I'm sharing won't ever appear in their tests in a few weeks, my heart is happy I can impart wisdom, not just knowledge.

I guess what matters now is they're liking school a lot, in this crazy time no less. That's a win in my book. But, yes, next week, we'll really start hitting the books.

Tuesday, September 01, 2020

Homeschooling Week 1: I learned flexibility and gratitude for life's surprises

Hello, I'm back! The blog was still active the past week because of guest posts published, but I know you prefer ME (yey!) so here I am with a report on what's been keeping me from blogging. Well, it's homeschooling!

Yes, we're one week in. Today is our second week and so far, so good. I can already see where we'll have a hard time (my boys like to annoy each other and joke around) and where we'll have an easy time (apparently, school is super fun for them... but it's only been the first week bwahaha).

Last time I wrote here about our new mode of education, I shared our schedule. Well, let me tell you, that first day, we didn't follow the schedule at all! Mostly because my kids like to talk so Circle Time went on and on. It took us a while to log in and understand their new e-learning platform. Then they liked Math too much so we extended. The rest of the week was pretty much the same - them asking for more time for school. So this September, we're extending subjects from 30 minutes to 45 minutes each.

So there goes my career!

It's okay. Really. Maybe because I actually don't have a career anyway haha. I do have a new gig as a columnist at Project Vanity (please read my articles!) so that's sweet since Liz, my editor, wants me to write about beauty but profoundly. I guess because she wants PV readers to see the point of view of an older and wiser woman. I'm also a writer for ParenTeam. I love this, too, since I'm not a mommy blogger anymore but this allows me to still write about parenting. My regular writing job at ANCx ended because of what this government did to ABS-CBN, so that's sad, but we live to fight another day.

So, career-wise, this year was a huge surprise. It started out so strong - I had PR clients, I had my ANCx gig and other writing projects. We were going to Boracay and to Guam because of my PR work. I was going to rake it in! Then the pandemic happened. 

Despite that, I'm happy. I'm even happier that I still get to write. That's all I ever wanted to do in my life anyway. I'm also glad the career slowed down because I'd hate to choose between my kids and my job, you know? Sometimes you take life by the horns and sometimes life decides for you. I'm glad this decision was made for me.

I will confess that last week, when the boys' former school told me that their withdrawal process was complete and we can pick up their report cards and school records, my heart sank. As in, I cried. That was how bad it hit me. It's not regret. It was realizing that I worked so damn hard to get them in that school and keep them there. All those jobs I took, the sleepless nights working, just so we can afford their tuition and Chinese tutor. All those hard days hit me and I felt bad for that poor woman who worked and worked so hard. Then it was just going to end up like this - we'll pull them out of school because of a virus. I feel like I wasted my time, you know? Well, no, I didn't. All those years were still worth it and I'd do it all over again. It's just... It was hard.

So in many ways, this year is a relief. I don't have to kill myself working to keep them in that expensive school haha. Joking aside, I did a lot of crying out to God. I was so tired. I love working, but the exhaustion just drained out all the appreciation. So now here we are, income drastically cut, stuck at home for 6 months, homeschooling, and yet we're all having fun! Weird. 

I really am enjoying myself. I didn't anticipate how fun homeschooling was going to be. I really thought we'd be killing each other by now haha Instead, we're enjoying ourselves so much, I'm the one who can't keep up with the kids. Like, I beg off from more schooling. "Mama wants to nap! Stop bugging me for more Math!!!" What a shock. 

I didn't anticipate how annoying my sons can be, too. So there's that part of me that goes, "How am I going to discipline them - as a teacher or as a parent?" Well, the mama in me always wins, of course. I think I'll figure this out as we go but it's my house, my kids. I can't help being their mother. Problem is, I'm a really mean mom. I won't apologize for this. I have sons. I need to be tough on them. I'm very affectionate and generous and silly, okay. But I can be really strict, too. And I don't tolerate disrespect, lazy thinking, and sloppy work. 

One other thing I'm having a difficult time with is how I need to be flexible and quick-thinking, addressing the academic needs of each child (I have three sons!) while also managing the home. For example, I have to prepare lunch and teach them their lessons simultaneously. So there's a part of me that wishes we had household help. 

I also didn't realize this homeschooling adventure was going to consume my whole day. And night haha. For example, last Sunday, I stayed up all night making a weekly review for each boy. That's just the first week. As my husband said, it's a full-time job. 

It doesn't have to be a full-time job because their homeschool provider has the curriculum covered pretty darn well. I can mostly just be the guide, the one to explain things. But I used to be a teacher (did you know that?) so that part of me can't leave well enough alone.

Besides, it's fun. We're having so much fun. It bewilders me sometimes because I never enjoyed school (I hated school so much) and my kids were pretty meh about it, too. But now we're just excited to learn every day. They don't even want to have a weekend. Now that's a surprise, too. 

So first homeschooling week report: Excellent! Let's see how this week goes. Wish us luck!